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California is considering the removal of a limit in its welfare program that penalizes low-income mothers.
Most programs determine benefits based on family size, with more money to support parents with more children. Yet the Maximum Family Grant rule in the CalWORKs program, which distributes TANF benefits, was adopted in 1994 and denies extra money for a new child if any member of the household is already receiving aid. In essence, it penalizes women who decide to have children while relying on the program.
The limit was one way the state sought to reduce the number of people relying on TANF funding and the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies among low-income women. Yet the research on whether or not such a policy has any impact on the decision to have a child is inconclusive and some have found that most women on CalWORKs have a similar number of children as those who aren�t on the rolls.
The average amount a family receives from the state�s welfare program is $464 a month, which puts a family of three at about 30 percent of the poverty line. Without the MFG limit, each household with a newborn child would get an additional $122 a month.